Allison Peterson has dealt with her share of obstacles in recent years, but it didn’t prevent her from achieving a lifelong dream.
Peterson, who lives in Sun Prairie, recently published The Sapphire Scarf, a 322-page romantic novel. Peterson enjoyed writing short stories and romantic poetry for years, but The Sapphire Scarf is her first full-length project and the first in a four-part series. She goes by the pen name Ali Mar Peterbakk.
Peterson began the project while going through a painful divorce, ending a marriage of 25 years.
“I needed to be strong for my kids through the divorce and it wasn’t a simple thing and it wasn’t easy, so part of finding myself through the divorce and being strong for my kids was writing,” Peterson said. “I started writing what I knew, but I turned everything negative into a positive, for my benefit and everybody else.”
With the divorce being settled and Peterson focusing on the book and her family, another obstacle came about. Peterson found out she had a brain tumor in 2013.
“That took some of my sight. At the same time, I had to go through radiation. I had to go through the whole process. It wasn’t cancer, which I was very thankful for, but that was another setback. I found myself, I was happy with my life and now this other setback comes along with the brain tumor and the possibility of having permanent damage,” Peterson said.
Despite losing some of her sight, Peterson knew she could still use the remaining sight she had to continue writing, which provided a sense of therapy during a dark period. Due to the location of the tumor, radiation and her blood pressure, Peterson lost more vision. After a year, Peterson’s blood pressure was stabilized and she recently noticed that her vision is coming back and her sight continues to improve.
“There was a time in there when everything was dark,” Peterson said. “I was just seeing black.”
While doctors told Peterson it was unlikely her sight would return, she leaned on her faith and the prayers of family and friends to pull through.
“I know all my prayers were answered,” Peterson said. “I went back to writing and I got the book finished before I had complete darkness.”
Through help from her mom, Peterson sent the manuscript to Page Publishing in New York City. The publishers sent back pages of edits, but without her sight Peterson knew editing would be a struggle. Through help from Council Education and Vision Services Director and Vision Rehabilitation Teacher Jean Kalscheur, Peterson received assistance during the long, arduous editing process.
At Peterson’s home, Kalscheur setup Window Eyes, a computer program that read Word documents back to Peterson. Former Council staff member Patrick Sweeney also helped Peterson learn the program, teaching her tips about three times a week.
“I was overwhelmed because I’ve worked as an administrative assistant and a switchboard operator, so I’ve always depended on my eyes while using computers. Learning where the keys were was so hard to do, but Patrick said ‘You’ll get it, you’ll be fine’ and I did and I knew I could do this,” Peterson said.
“Karen Lee Whiting would (also) come over and read to me and tell me where a change needed to be made. It was a long process, but she was so dedicated, and she would read it how I would write it,” Peterson said.
After completing the manuscript in August of 2014, Peterson finally realized her dream when The Sapphire Scarf was published and released on October 1. With help from the Council, Peterson began her second book and plans to publish two more to complete the “Sapphire Series.”
“I kept writing and Karen Lee still comes to help with punctuations and editing. I’m so glad I got all that down. I couldn’t have done it without the Council’s help, it’s just been wonderful.”